The Lost Art of Bootstrapping

What is keeping you from starting a company right now?  For most of us the answer is money.  If only someone would pay us to start a company, we just know that we could make it a success.  The problem is that most successful companies don’t begin with financing; they begin with uncompensated work and personal investment.  No matter how unique, world-changing or innovative you think your idea may be, the idea holds no real value to anyone but you.  Value is created in your idea as it moves toward a place where someone can buy it or pay you for the benefit it brings.

The Entrepreneur as Splendid Physical Speciman?

In recent years I have become very aware of the strong correlation between entrepreneurial and athletic endurance.  Many of the serial entrepreneurs with whom I have had the privilege of working seem to share three common characteristics: confidence, tenacity and fitness.  And the more I observed their success the more I have become convinced that they are interrelated. 

It’s All About Community

A vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem includes the development of capital, talent (entrepreneurs), ideas and community.  These pillars do not exist independently.  There are interdependencies amongt them, especially between entrepreneurs and their communities.  In a recent paper, The Character of Innovative Places: Entrepreneurial Strategy, Economic Development and Prosperity, Maryann P.

Whom Do You Trust?

Recently I was asked to help a founder of a failed company with his postmortem analysis of his venture-backed startup.   It was a deeply painful process for him as he had spent three years of his life building a company that cost him his marriage, his savings and, he believed, his reputation. 

Needed: a Market Assessment Specialist

You are brilliant.  You are an inventor, an innovator, a technical genius.  But without the right team the world will never benefit from your work.  So with whom should you team to bring your invention to the marketplace? Your first advisor may be the most critical to your success and the most difficult to find. 

Success—One Failure at a Time

Entrepreneurs truly are wired differently and therefore don’t get invited back as panelists.  I recently atttended a conference on commercializing laboratory technologies.  The usual pundit classes were represented: Ph.Ds, tech transfer professionals, investors and a solitary entrepreneur. 

There Ought to Be an Entrepreneurial ORTA

Have you ever met an ORTA?  Every federally funded research laboratory with over 200 scientists, engineers or related technical staff  must have an Office of Research and Technology Applications whose mission it is to develop and promote relationships for technology transfer.  In most cases the ORTA is a person who is tasked with this mission.  A major problem facing our nation’s goal of creating and expanding companies with technology from our national labs is that most entrepreneurs have never met an ORTA.  It is time for this to change. 

Your Focus Needs More Focus

The euphoria associated with the initial imagination phases of a startup is addictive.  Universes of opportunities present themselves in rapid succession before your mind’s eye and it becomes easy to envisage that your nascent company can change the world.  But the process that allows you to imagine your changing the world is different from the process that will actually enable you to effect the change you seek.  Dream big but start small.

The Rise of the Disruptive Class

Within our society there exists a unique culture that thrives on the changes in the world.  For them change is the portent of opportunity.  They thrive on failure and exist in the underserved, underutilized and underappreciated markets often avoided by large corporations.   They are disruptive companies, with disruptive solutions creating disruptive products.  Welcome the rise of the entrepreneur, the Disruptive Class. 

Knowing Your Investment Readiness Level

Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) were originally developed by NASA to help describe the maturity of an invention or concept.  The lowest level, TRL One, is an idea or observation.  The top of the scale, TRL Nine, would describe something that is usable in the field, or in NASA’s mission, usable in space.  The TRL system has been adopted by many research agencies such as the departments of energy and defense, the European Space Agency and the FAA.  

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